Funeral Doom Friday: Remembering AHAB's The Call of the Wretched Sea
Finally, the weekend is upon us. What better way to kick it off than with the latest installment of "Funeral Doom Friday". For those who are new to this column; each week features a new or classic album from the realm of extreme doom. Much of funeral/death doom's might comes from an oppressive emotional weight and the use of death or black metal motifs (played at a trudging pace, of course.)
Pioneers like Mournful Congregation, Evoken, and Esoteric have mastered this blend of dirge and destruction. For 25 years, they have methodically built compositions that stretch for dozens of minutes all while keeping fans enthralled. Time has elapsed since the days of Thergothon and much like the world around us, the genre has evolved. Today's modern bands contort the very construct of the genre, breeding darkly refreshing new work. Their work thankfully gives this column plenty of material to share.
Germany's Ahab is often considered one of the marquee names of funeral doom. The Heidelberg collective has carved out a unique niche in the genre since 2004. Instead of funneling their music through the typical tales of loss or sorrow, Ahab turns towards the sea. It all started with their debut album in 2006 entitled The Call of the Wretched Sea. Their "Nautik Doom" caught on in a hurry as listeners became engrossed in the quartet's Moby Dick-inspired tales and glacially driven music.
The Call of the Wretched Sea features many lines, excerpts, and famous sequences from Melville's timeless writing. The opener, "Below the Sun," for instance, begins with the very same line that starts the furious final words of Captain Ahab: "I turn my body from the sun…" There are a number of these moments throughout the record as Ahab built a conceptual framework around the book through the deranged Captain's eyes. Personally, it may be the most captivating notion about this record. Still, the compositions that accompany the prose are some of funeral doom's finest points over the last two decades.
Again, with opener "Below the Sun," eerie, slow synthesizers roll in and signal the beginning of something ominous. The perfect storm never begins quickly and neither does The Call of the Wretched Sea. The slow build the album offers was a huge launching point for Ahab. It also shows the early glimmer of funerary brilliance the band groomed early on. The poise and power of songs like "Old Thunder" or "The Sermon" show the band channeling greats like Paradise Lost and Skepticism. Daniel Droste's deep growl and the guitar layering between him and Christian Hector shine on these tracks. Of course, a low end of Stephan Aldoph (bass) and Corny Althammer (drums) that sounds like the whale bursting from the seas doesn't hurt either.
Ultimately, what makes The Call of the Wretched Sea so captivating was Ahab's ability to find something unique within the realm of funeral doom. While unique ideas alone don't get the job done, certainly the band members' brilliant individual performances do. The Germans' knack for crafting this stirring literary homage built a strong foundation for a band that continues to dazzle and mold the very future of funeral doom as a genre. Interestingly enough, Ahab historically has released an album every three years. Their previous album, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, came out in 2015. Could they be working on some new music?
Ahab released vinyl reissues of all their albums last week (it's the big reason this week features their music). Check out all of the offerings now from the band's BigCartel page. Listen to their classic The Call of the Wretched Sea below. Follow Ahab on Facebook and Twitter.